Alexis Sanchez scored an extra-time winner as Arsenal came from behind to book their place in the FA Cup final after a resilient 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Wembley.
Pep Guardiola’s Citizens dominated for large periods at the home of English football but didn’t take the lead until the 62nd minute, when Sergio Aguero brilliantly dinked over Petr Cech to finish off a swift counter attack.
However, a dogged and resolute Gunners refused to be beaten, and equalised nine minutes later when Nacho Monreal volleyed home Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s deep cross, before talisman Sanchez netted what turned out to be the winner 11 minutes into extra time when City failed to clear a corner.
It means that Arsene Wenger’s side will contest for a 13th FA Cup crown against Premier League leaders Chelsea next month, and also means that Guardiola’s first season at City will end without any silverware.
The Citizens will be disappointed but will have to quickly their attentions to securing a top four finish in the Premier League – they currently sit fourth in the table with six games remaining – but for Arsenal they now have the chance to secure a third FA Cup title in four years, and for Wenger the chance arises to salvage a piece of silverware after a turbulent season at the Emirates.
Both managers named unchanged starting elevens at Wembley this afternoon, the first time Guardiola has done so at City in his 50th game in charge, and it was his men that made the better start when Kevin De Bruyne fired wide from the edge of the box after just three minutes.
And that was a sign of things to come in the first half as the majority of the game was played in Arsenal’s half, with David Silva’s header well saved by Petr Cech as City looked the more threatening.
Olivier Giroud headed straight at Claudio Bravo in a rare Gunners attack, although they did have the ball in the back of the net through defender Laurent Koscielny, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
It was then City’s turn to have a goal disallowed but this one was more contentious, with Leroy Sane’s cross from the by-line adjudged to have gone out of play by linesman Steve Child, before it was finished off by first Aguero and then Sterling, although replays suggest that it did indeed remain in play, and thus should have stood.
City may have been hard done by there, but they could probably count themselves a tad fortunate at the end of the half when Sanchez appeared to be clumsily bundled over by Jesus Navas, although referee Craig Pawson waved away the Gunners protests.
Wenger’s men gained a greater foothold on proceedings at the start of the second half to suggest that they had weathered the storm, with Granit Xhaka’s goalbound effort deflected wide and then Giroud brilliantly denied by Fernandinho when he was ready to shoot.
However, it was Guardiola’s men who took the lead after 62 minutes when Aaron Ramsey cheaply lost possession as Arsenal attacked down the right, allowing Yaya Toure to chip forward a wonderful ball towards Aguero.
The Argentine got the better of Monreal and although he had a heavy touch when bearing down on goal, he benefited from hesitant goalkeeping from Cech to dink the ball into the Gunners net for his 30th goal of the campaign.
Nonetheless, their lead didn’t last long as from, out of nothing, Arsenal levelled.
The magnificent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a constant menace down the Gunners right, crossed deep towards the back post, where fellow wing-back Monreal was arriving to volley home past the helpless Bravo, who was routed to the spot.
This didn’t deter City though, as Toure’s 25-yard strike was brilliantly tipped onto the post from Cech, and moments later Guardiola’s men hit the woodwork again, this time Fernandinho’s header crashed against the crossbar.
Substitute Danny Welbeck had a chance to seal it for Arsenal late on when he got the better of Nicolas Otamendi but fired wide, but it mattered little as 11 minutes into extra time, Arsenal’s main man Sanchez stepped up.
City failed to clear a Mesut Ozil free-kick and the ball eventually landed at the feet of Sanchez, who calmly struck home his 25th goal of the campaign to send the east half of Wembley into raptures.
Guardiola’s men tried to respond but Arsenal held firm to secure their place in the final, where they’ll face Antonio Conte’s Chelsea after they beat Tottenham 4-2 in the other semi-final on Saturday.
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